Turning 32: Acceptance, Love and Hope

In only a month I will be 32. Today I am in an unfamiliar city, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world and I am enjoying it tremendously, despite having cried three times already for missing my baby.

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My boys without me

I am listening to two adorable baristas discuss giving up sugar. They are tiny, young, friendly and energetic. One is petite with a pixie look and a valley girl intonation. My 20-year-old self wouldn’t have tolerated her in conversation but completely envied her style. The other has an androgynous look and I am drawn to her smile instantly. My twenty-year old self would have followed her all around campus. I’m still eavesdropping.

But in a month I will be 32 which somehow feels more significant when I turned 30. When I turned 30 I was pregnant for the first time which overshadowed everything else. Two years later I am pregnant again, less overwhelmed by the enormity and more…surrendered? My life, in a long term think-about-the-future sort of way feels paused while I create new life, someone else’s life. My mind has shrunk- unable to take in much beyond my house and the people who live there. I know that since becoming pregnant two years ago I have not been as good of a friend as I once was. I forget birthdays and don’t return emails, never on purpose but simply because. 

I no longer write, travel or create crafts often- all of which are my favorite things. There is a half-finished gray knit hat in a plastic bin in my attic among piles of yarn waiting for me, hoping I will come back for it. But I don’t have the time or money (two things to enjoy traveling) or the energy (required of writing or crafting). Although I sometimes long to do one or many of these activities, mostly I don’t care. It’s become normal but in waiting Haines grow and become more independent, I have seen the light. It won’t always be like this. This is just a phase of life where I will do me, as best as I can do me, and this is enough even though it won’t look anything like before.

Normally in a new city I would be racing around, walking every street. Today I worked remotely, found amazing Mediterranean food, bought two books in the book store where I am now very unhurried. I am sipping tea from an actual teacup and saucer. The afternoon light is casting a gentle flow across old wood floors in the café and I’m admiring the energy of nearby baristas while I write.  

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This is a sign of my age right? When taking time to be slow is just as important as seeing the sights? Then again, bookstores have always been “the sights” for me. I am old enough to have only bought 2 books (it’s called living on a budget) but not old enough to know I should go ahead and buy all the books, because books are invaluable. 

I believe the new year really starts on your birthday. I always look to the new calendar year as a fresh start but birthdays are far more inspiring. So what do I want for my next year? What do I hope for 32?

I hope for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

I hope for calm in the face of chaos.

I hope to have a few moments like this one where I feel contented in everything, fully knowing that all is not perfect.

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Ten years of friendship

I hope to spend time with friends and have a few laughs. I hope to hold hands with my husband after the bab(ies) have gone to bed.

I hope to read a few good books and enjoy a few warm summer nights.

And if I am lucky, I hope to get a few good nights of sleep.

All in all, I think this could be a wonderful year.

 

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Baby’s First Year Survival Tools

One of the things expecting mothers always panic about is all the things. You feel you need all the things! In reality, you won’t need half of what you end up with when you have a baby. A lot of people will try to give you things. You’ll most likely accept everything  thinking, how am I to know what I need? You don’t, so cut yourself some slack. I don’t know what you need either, but I do know what I used to get through HEB’s first year. If we have another baby we’ll probably need totally different things! But hopefully not because we’re not buying anything.

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Newborn hell (or 0 to 3 months):

I have to be honest, those newborn days that everyone (without a newborn) glows over… those are pretty intense. Even if you are not breastfeeding you may start to think, surely this is impossible! Horribly enough we all started off as extremely needy, up all hours of the night, feeding every 2 hours, adorable little babies.

  • Netflix– get it, gift it, don’t judge yourself for binging it.
  • Chicco Keyfit stroller caddy– We loved this for the ability to plop our carseat right in and start strolling without ever disturbing our sleeping babe. There’s also tons of storage underneath so I could throw his diaper bag in there. I preferred using this for grocery shopping (heavy things in the caddy, light things in a basket) rather than a cart when he was small.
  • A breastfeeding station- Find yourself a Boppy or a Brest Friend or whatever and keep it near your comfiest chair or couch. Near that fill a basket with granola bars or easy to eat snacks, your kindle or your TV remote and remember to bring water when you’re sitting down to feed. Two minutes in and you’ll suddenly remember you’re DYING of thirst.
  • Rock n Play– Haines slept in the Rock n Play for the first 4 months of his life and absolutely loved it. Admittedly though we never put the batteries in so it didn’t rock him on its own. I would reach out and rock him to sleep in the middle of the night if needed, but never used the actual function. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to stop.

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3-6 months:

This was a pretty tough time for me. I went back to work and Haines’ sleep had really gotten worse so the level of fatigue was high. At the same time though H started to interact with us. He was alert and playful. It really lifted me up.

  • Bouncy chair– This is something we didn’t know we really needed. It was a hand-me-down (as is everything else) and I wasn’t even sure why we would want it. Um… you want to carry this lightweight all over your house so you can get things done! This is what baby lays in while you cook dinner, go to the bathroom, type your blogs- all the important things.
  • Frozen meals- I had fixed some items in advance and my mom and Natalie also stocked my freezer as well. The first few weeks/months we were the beneficiaries of a meal train but that comes to an end well before the fatigue does. Having the world’s easiest meals on hand is very helpful. I also froze muffins to help me with my constant need to snack.
  • Ergo– We started out with a 2nd hand Chicco carrier which worked okay, but it was a huge upgrade when a friend gave us an Ergo. After a little while you start to want options for going out and having some sort of baby wearing device is a must. (Also, I tried a wrap and found it to be an enormous pain the tush.)

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6-9 months:

The first turning point! Everything was fun during these few months (minus sleep training and ear infections). Haines was excited for everything- food, Clara, being outside. There were also so many milestones during this time. He sat up, crawled and walked all between 7 and 9 months.

  • Kiddo food trays- I LOVED using these to make Haines’ baby food. I made all of his food at home which was much easier than I anticipated. When he napped on the weekend, I would dump all the veggies into a steamer before blending in our Nutri-bullet. Any blender will do. The only downside here- HEB moved on from purees pretty quickly. He wanted to feed himself!
  • Baby proofing- This turned out to be much more in depth than I would have expected. We had to get rid of several pieces of furniture that we deemed being too annoying with a baby to keep. If you’re going to try to limit your “No! Don’t touch that!” conversations than I will suggest going beyond outlet covers and cabinet locks. Every trash can in your house should have a heavy lid, your toilet paper should be moved near the ceiling and any knick-knacks resting within 3 feet of the floor should be moved. Probably just get rid of your blinds now.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- For months this was Haines favorite toy. It could entertain him indefinitely. This is probably the only thing we ever tore up the house looking for.
  • Nursery rhymes- Start practicing now. This was the only way we could get perk up a cranky baby during diaper changes or going into his carseat.

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9-12 months:

This was the second turning point. We have a routine. We can mostly anticipate Haines likes and dislikes. He’s fussier and harder to console but also easier to distract. Children are weird.

  • Alphaprints book & The Itsy Bitsy Snowman are Haines two favorite books right now. They are guaranteed to lift his mood!
  • Bathmat– If your baby wants to crawl all around the bathtub then I recommend getting a non-slip bathmat for the tub. It has cut down on his falls tremendously and ours has a hook so it can hang on the shower to dry.
  • Spoutless sippy cup– Haines has struggled with all the other cups we’ve given him but took to this one right away! (Full disclosure: we still use a bottle most of the time, but this cup has helped a lot).

 

If you’re stressing about needing all the things, don’t. Get a carseat. Figure out a safe place for the baby to sleep. Buy a few diapers (and expect many more in gifts). Collect every hand me down you can. You’ll figure out the rest.

And remember, for better or for worse, this is only temporary.

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2018: New Year’s Resolutions

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I know I said I was sticking to a theme for the new year but let’s get real, I have a lot of goals for 2018. I’ve been reading all over the place that I shouldn’t have a lot of unattainable goals. Stick to goals you can truly impact and accomplish. These are a mix of goals I’d define as both stretch and within reach (maybe).

Personal Finances: For 2018 I hope to save $5,000. I had similar goals for 2017 but it turned out to be a much more expensive year than I anticipated. Guess what guys, paying for daycare- pricey. Also, if you’ve never had a baby before you probably don’t know how much babies cost. This is totally fair and I probably should have factored this in to my goals. Once someone told me that babies are cheap when they’re very little. Um… clearly you didn’t pay for formula, daycare or diapers.

And in reality, like most people we’re still learning how to be financially savvy. Tyler calls 2018 “The Year of Smart” and this definitely applies to our money. We want to make smart decisions. That’s pretty much all you can ask for. (Dang, this should really be my goal. But I want to save $5k!)

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Home: In the land of new baby, the first priority to drop is cleaning the house. This creates a constant cycle where we don’t pick up after ourselves and every 2-3 weeks I freak out because I can no longer tolerate the state of our home. Surely, there’s a better way to live.

So this year I just want to do some pretty basic picking up after myself. Tyler and I have starting washing our dishes and fully wiping down the kitchen after each meal. This may seem like adulting 101 but I feel like we’re relearning every aspect of life right now. We’re putting the laundry away the same day it got washed  and cleaning the bathroom on a regular basis.

Basically, it’ll take nothing short of a miracle to maintain this but I’m still holding out hope!

Professional Life: I wear several different hats in my role at work, because it is a role that constantly evolves. This is awesome as it allows me to be challenged but I often feel pulled in several directions and constantly worry about dropping one of the many priorities I am juggling. I think this is a pretty common experience for individuals who have just reached the point in their career where they’re truly challenged.

Now it’s just about being able to balance my priorities, learn some project management skills and advocate for myself. Sometimes you have to say- TOO MUCH! This is a goal I don’t expect to reach, just aim for. I’m growing, y’all.

Mama Life: The number one thing I want to do as a mom is be present. Yes, I want to be present as a friend, a daughter or a wife but being present as a mama is my number one. This is harder than I would have thought. Haines can be…boring. It’s not his fault- he’s a baby! He’s adorable to watch and he just started to ask me to read him books which makes my heart explode but sometimes I’d like to have a conversation that isn’t, “Don’t put that in your mouth!” or “What a big boy you are!”

So being present  is equally about being present when we’re together and taking breaks that allow me to focus on him. This weekend Tyler was off work. We took Haines to a party on Saturday where Tyler was primary baby watcher and Sunday I got to go to a coffee shop for two hours with Better Than Never Blogger, Chrissy. This little moments are what excites me to run back to my baby bubba.

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Haines after a run. 

Health: Almost everyone looks to the new year with a health goal. Tyler has started running which naturally has amped up my own fitness routine. We RAN 3.2 miles on Saturday (with breaks). Although I do have periods where fitness falls down the list of priorities, most of the time I feel pretty good about that area of my life.

Right now, it’s caffeine. Every since this baby entered my life, my soda intake has skyrocketed. I don’t drink coffee so this is my main fuel for life. No matter what I tell myself at the beginning of the week, by Sunday I’ve drank 3-4 Dr. Peppers. Pre-pregnancy I had one a week. I need to get back to that.

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Little Ol’ Me: There’s one last goal I want to keep in motion for 2018. For a long time, this has been in the forefront of my interactions but I’m not yet where I want to be. The goal is simple- communicate honestly, openly and regularly.

Don’t let things build up. Don’t sugarcoat unless absolutely necessary. Give of my authentic self whenever possible.

Goals:

  • Save $5k
  • Clean the house
  • Learn balance at work
  • Be present
  • Drink less soda
  • Communicate regularly and honestly.

When I lay it all out, it seems like a lot. I probably should have stuck with Tiny Adventures. Here we come 2018!!

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The Year of Tiny Adventures

Now we’re in 2018. It’s a brand new year and we’ll encounter brand new challenges that will be tougher and easier than keeping a baby safe and well from birth to 12 months. (So I hear.)

I’ve started to have a little more time to breathe now and it seems like my brain waves are firing a little faster (no guarantees). Tempted as always to create unrealistic goals for the new year, I’ve settled on a single idea.

(Okay, I’m lying. I have a lot of resolutions but I’m trying to ignore them. I want to just have a theme for my year instead of a lot of lofty goals that are unrealistic to set.)

I want to have more adventures, but to do so I need to see the adventure in everyday things. Haines is 13 months and I work on someone else’s schedule. Hiking Machu Pichu or snorkeling foreign seas aren’t in my near future. It can be hard to appreciate adventures in baby world. Haines primarily finds fun in eating leaves and other tidbits he finds on the ground. But to grow him and me we have to get out of the house.

Welcome 2018: The Year of Tiny Adventures

My goal is to explore Wilmington in a way that keeps me outside and interacting with others. These are the two things that maintain my sanity. That and the occasional baby break but sometimes that’s not an option.

January’s adventures include:

A trip to the Fort Fisher Aquarium– big news, we’re members now! Haines got a membership for his birthday and we plan to take advantage. His attention only held for about 30 of the 60 minutes we were there but I consider that a win.

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Wilmington Coffee Crawl– I don’t actually drink coffee but I like coffee shops and anything involving strolling a baby around downtown. I hope the weather holds out!

Also, I started using Peanut which I’m super intimidated by. Has anyone tried this? It’s like Tinder but it’s for Moms and is just to make friends. Wish me luck!

So, here we go- a little attitude change, a little planning and a lot of (tiny) adventures!

 

Working Mom Blues: Daycare Jealousy

As Haines goes through phases I’ve found I do too. This past week he learned to wave, give high fives and fist bumps. We’re also working on doing “choo-choo” when we pretend we are a train running around the kitchen. This was all adorable until he practically leapt out of my arms to high five his teacher at daycare. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

When I first when I back to work, the build up to that first day was an emotional roller coaster. I cried for hours about other people raising our child and how we were terrible people and so on, even though I like my job and I had really struggled staying at home most days during maternity leave. We had never been able to get on a nap schedule (because you know, 12 weeks old!) and the lack of structure and unpredictable nature of baby life was hard for me to get a grip on. Still I grieved going back to work.

Once I got back to my job and realized I had placed my baby in very capable hands, I felt pretty good. I hate that Haines is at daycare for so long each day but he’s also really happy there. It makes things much easier. This past week was the first time I started to struggle with these feelings again.

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It’s a good problem to have. It’s good to have your child love their teacher so much you get a little jealous. She’s not some crazy person manipulating him into thinking she’s his mother like some Lifetime movie plot. She’s just good. She sings him songs, and teaches him to wave. It’s just when the teacher is the one who tells you what his favorite song is, your heart breaks a little. I didn’t know Haines could recognize Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, let alone request it (apparently there’s a hand gesture for this).

This week when she asked if she could feed him some of the foods the other kids are having at daycare I once again felt like she was telling me something I didn’t know about him. She was also taking away the one thing I contribute to his day- the food I make for him. It’s a minor thing. I like making his food but often the week feels like it gets away from me and sometimes it’s a pain. It will be easier when I have one less thing to bring for him.

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Pick-me-up flowers from a good husband

All the same every day this week I’ve felt heartache over our daycare situation. It’s the kind of thing I couldn’t imagine getting worked up over pre-baby life. I’m not quitting my job though. One, I don’t think we’re prepared for the financial changes we’d have to make and two, because I don’t think that’s who I am. Mentally, it would be very difficult for me to not have something of my own to go to each day.

I follow a lot of mom bloggers and Instagram accounts these days. I try not to get swept in by those who make parenting look picturesque and search out ones who honestly depict their lives. Stay at home, work at home, or work away from home- all of these are great and difficult. Each have their own challenges that sometimes don’t have a fix. You just have to get through.

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A Bad Case of Jealousy

I will start with the requisite disclaimer: I really like my life. I have a great husband, a happy baby, a sweet dog, a cozy home and a good job. I am undeniably one lucky lady. But…sometimes I get a case of overwhelming jealousy.

Over the last couple weeks friends near and far have gotten new jobs, visited old friends, explored far away lands, and so on. And I feel a little…stuck. Neither babies nor corporate jobs lend themselves to lifestyles of travel. Every tiny thing in baby life is new and yet each day is mired in repetition and routine. Every day Haines shows us a little bit more of what he is capable of. He gets more food in his mouth. He imitates and repeats our actions. He stands on his own two feet a few seconds longer, a tiny balancing person.

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Each little thing he does makes my whole body feel lighter. I actually can feel the physical sensation of joy filling me up. It’s so much more than I ever could have imagined.

And yet… it doesn’t negate the feelings of jealousy. I still am at a point where I am:

  • Figuring out how to make our routine fit my needs too. Every morning we try to find that perfect mix of play and get shit done. Each evening we try to unwind while keeping Haines entertained and hopefully giving Clara some attention too. When we break away from our routine for some social occasion it’s worth it but we often pay a price. Weekends are more fun now that Haines is more interactive, but still each day follows a fairly strict schedule. We wake up at the same time bright and early and follow the most important rule: fit nap time in whenever possible. When I can get a few minutes of Haines playing by himself or napping I work in vacuuming, baby food making, writing, bathroom cleaning and other things that aren’t particularly exciting. Still they’re essential for mental health.
  • Learning how to incorporate adventure into our lives. We don’t have the funds or the time to plan a European trip but we are finally starting to travel with baby HEB. We’ve visited all our parents (minus one that lives overseas) and have a trip to Charlottesville in the works next month. We’re even going to take our first overnight trip sans baby which is nerve wracking but incredibly exciting. When I feel downtrodden I don’t venture out as much but I know to stay upbeat I need long walks outside on the beach or in the park and so forth. I’m working on making outdoor, physically active time a required part of the weekend.
  • Reevaluating my career. This is easy to do being a new mom back at work. I have struggled over the last 6 months to feel confident in my abilities as a professional. When you are sleep deprived and feeling completely blinded in your home life, it spills over into your work life. Still even when I am feeling confident as a contributing member of my workplace, that often means I feel as though I’m taking away from my time or my focus at home. I don’t plan to leave my job or stop working but still I find myself changing the way I think about work and how it adds value…or doesn’t… to my life as well as I add value to my work.

One of my friends recently learned she’s pregnant and while she’s over the moon elated she also expressed feelings of apprehension, fear and general “what have I gotten myself into”. Everyone gets this idea that you can’t be both grateful and scared, happy and doubtful all at the same time, but every day I’ve experienced so far since becoming a parent is somehow a mix of total elation, frustration and a little jealousy.

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Yesterday Haines was asleep when I picked up from daycare and laid his head on my shoulder as we walked to the car. I could relive that one simple moment all day, with his soft chubby cheek on my shoulder, his sweet baby smell right next to me, his body normally wiggling, finally quiet. So I may, from time to time, mourn freedoms I used to have but I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

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5 Ways to Survive Without Sleep (AKA Being a New Parent)

Oh cruel, elusive sleep. I miss you so. In all my non-parenting years you had so rarely failed me. Sure, the occasional illness or stressful time kept me awake but generally we were faithful friends. I was kind to you, you were kind to me.

I didn’t understand how good I had it. A friend once called pregnancy the empathy gauntlet. You get a little taste at how difficult it can be when you don’t fit in spaces, when your body doesn’t feel like yours, when you suffer from low blood sugar, when you have dietary restrictions and so forth. And then there’s the insomnia. You’re incredibly tired but you can’t get comfortable, can’t stop feeling anxious, can’t sleep.

And then the baby is born. Now you could totally sleep if you were only given the opportunity. Nope!

Haines was sleeping 8 hours at 10 weeks (sometimes) so we thought we were golden. We thought we were rockstar parents. It turns out we were just naive. Since I returned to work he’s slept through the night only a handful of times. Sometimes I think he knows that I’m about to break down and he gives me an extra hour. Sometimes he seems a little less aware. When I was on maternity leave, not sleeping sucked but it was manageable. Tyler always made an effort to give me a break and often got up with Haines when he inevitably woke up at 4 or 5 so I could sleep an extra couple of hours. Now that we both work those days are few and far between.

I realize that babies often don’t sleep through the night. I knew that going into this whole “having a baby” thing but I just didn’t get it. Like childbirth, breastfeeding or pregnancy in general I knew what it meant in theory but not in practice. With Haines’ arrival all of the sudden I realized that new parents (or not so new parents) all over the world were in this situation. They were raising children, going to work, taking care of their home and not sleeping through the night. It blew my mind. That might sound crazy to you but it’s a whole new world when you’re suffering through a day of work after a night in new baby hell and you realize this is just the norm.

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Mornings are hard.

Truly it was a revelation. And then the people on the news are saying all these crazy things like don’t drive if you’re tired. Like they said if you miss an hour you could be in danger. Miss an hour?? What if you have a baby? Then you’re always tired.  You always miss an hour! How am I supposed to go to work? (Side note: obviously there’s a difference between being baby tired and being truly sleepy while driving which is really unsafe.)

The Sunrise Series

Now we’re in the beginning stages of testing “cry it out”. Everyone told me you’ll know when you’re ready to sleep train. The moment I felt less responsive to Haines’ crying at night, I knew I was ready. I was tired enough to listen to him tough it out. We’re on day 2 and we’ve seen some minor improvement. In the meantime I’m trying these survival techniques:

  1. Consume absurd amounts of caffeine: I now prefer to drink black tea several times ado. I’m also being a little more forgiving with my soda consumption. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
  2. Limit my alcohol intake: I don’t drink as regularly or as much as I did pre-baby life due to breastfeeding and the lack of sleep but I’m trying to take it down a notch again. It makes me too sleepy and takes away from the quality sleep I am able to get from time to time. It’s not my first choice but I surely it’s only temporary. (PLEASE!)
  3. Make time for exercise: This is significantly easier said than done. I normally work out on my lunch break but lately my lunch break has been spent working. This negatively affects how much energy I have in the afternoon but also my attitude. Being able to be somewhat positive is directly tied into exercise for me.
  4. Lowering the expectations: Sometimes I go to bed at eight. Sometimes I don’t do any dishes. Sometimes I barely remember to brush my hair before work. We all do what we can.
  5. Ask for help: Tap your spouse for a shift. Call a relative. Get a babysitter. At some point it’s about survival. Take a nap. I got to take a couple naps in Florida and my mom and sister took Haines for each night in Oklahoma. It was magical. I was like a whole new person for a couple days.

I’m sure you all have golden children who starting sleeping through the night at 2 weeks and have never stopped but I’ll be over here lying on the floor trying to convince my baby to take a nap. You’re supposed to model appropriate behaviors right? I’m all over it.

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This is a rare sighting of a baby napping in the wild. Capture the moment- it may never happen again!